How to Create a Business Directory Website in 7 Easy Steps (with WordPress)

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How to create an online business directory?

The easiest way to develop an Online Business Directory Website is to implement the following steps:

  1. Choose a platform (we recommend WordPress)
  2. Pick your niche
  3. Design and customize your directory website
  4. Gather and organize your data
  5. Optimize for SEO
  6. Promote your directory website
  7. Monitor and improve

Before we delve into the intricacies, it’s crucial to grasp the benefits of establishing an online business directory for you and your prospective visitors. Let’s explore those advantages first, and then we can dive deeper into the details.

Some people need a map, compass, and a pack of hunting dogs to find the business they’re looking for.

Others, well, fortunately, they’ll have your business directory website to guide them right to what they need.

It’s the ultimate resource for anyone looking for information about businesses, products, and services in a specific area or industry.

Setting up your own business directory website is surprisingly easy with the right tools.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to create a powerful online directory on WordPress.

Why start an online directory business?

  1. Passive income: If you monetize your directory website, you can earn some sweet, sweet cash without lifting a finger. It could be through advertising, listing fees, affiliate marketing, premium listings, and sponsored content.
  2. Flexibility: You can work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. It’s like being a digital nomad, but without having to worry about finding a place to sleep.
  3. Build a strong network: You’ll get to know all kinds of businesses and people, and who knows, maybe you’ll even make some valuable connections that will help you in your future endeavors.

Step 1: Choose a platform

The first step in creating your very own business directory website is to choose a platform.

And while there are more options out there than there are flavors of ice cream, it’s best to stick to the most user-friendly platforms like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace.

  1. WordPress: This platform is like the Swiss Army Knife of website builders. It’s versatile, powerful, and customizable. You can pretty much do anything with it, like building a treehouse, but without the risk of falling.
  2. Wix: It’s flashy, easy to use, and has lots of cool features. But there’s limited customization and there aren’t as many plugins.
  3. Squarespace: This platform is like the minimalist who only owns a few pieces of clothing. It’s clean, sleek, and aesthetically pleasing. But it can be pricey with limited functionality, so be mindful of that.

Our recommendations for beginners

If you’re new to website building, we recommend going with WordPress.

On top of the fact that there are tons of tutorials and resources out there to help you along the way, their plugin marketplace is also vast, and there are plenty of tools to help you build the perfect site.

For example, with the GeoDirectory plugin, you could have a powerful directory website up and running in a matter of minutes.

It has all the features you need, such as advanced search, social media integration, ratings & reviews, and more. Plus, it’s easy to customize and manage.

We’ll show you how to use it in this guide.

Step 2: Picking your niche

The next step is to pick your niche. What kind of businesses or products do you want to feature on your website?

  1. Identify your target audience. Who are you trying to attract to your directory website? Are you targeting small businesses, large corporations, or a specific industry?
  2. Research your competition. Take a look at what other business directories are out there and identify gaps in the market that you can fill. Think about what makes your directory unique and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition.
  3. Consider geographical location. Are you targeting a specific city, state, or region? If so, consider the needs of businesses and users in that area and create a directory that caters to those needs.
  4. Narrow down your categories and subcategories. Don’t try to cover too many areas, instead focus on a few key categories that are relevant to your target audience. Make sure they are well-defined and easy to navigate.
  5. Test your ideas. Before launching your directory website, test your ideas with potential users and businesses to get feedback and ensure that you are on the right track.

Here are some examples of niche business directories to give you an idea:

  • A directory for vegan restaurants in a specific city
  • A directory for pet grooming services in a specific region
  • A directory for women-owned businesses in a specific industry
  • A directory for eco-friendly products in a specific country

The possibilities are endless, so get creative and find a niche that speaks to you and your target audience.

Check this link out, if you need a tutorial on how to create a restaurant directory with WordPress or How to Create a Classified Ad Website.

Once you’ve identified your niche, you can move on to the next step.

Step 3: Design and customize your directory website

Now that you’ve chosen a platform and identified your niche, it’s time to design and customize your directory website.

First, you want to install and set up the GeoDirectory plugin. This involves:

  1. Installing the plugin
  2. Going through the setup wizard
  3. Creating a listing and categories
  4. Setting widgets
  5. Adding links to the menu bar

When you’re ready to set up your directory website, watch this walk-through by Nicole Sauk that will take you through the above steps.

Once the barebones are ready, you can start customizing the design. This is where things get exciting!

You can choose from a variety of WordPress Directory themes and templates by GeoDirectory to create a beautiful website that reflects your business.

WordPress Directory Themes and Page Builder Tutorials

If you need help choosing a 3rd party theme to use with GeoDirectory, we have a fantastic series of tutorials.

  1. How to Create an Outstanding Directory Website With the Blockstrap Theme and its Directory Child Theme
  2. How to Create an Outstanding Directory Website With Bricks Builder
  3. How to Create an Outstanding Directory Website With BuddyBoss
  4. How to create a Directory Website with the Blocksy theme and the Stackable Gutenberg Blocks plugin
  5. How to Create a Directory Website with the Avada Theme
  6. Creating a Directory Website with Breakdance – Website Builder for WordPress
  7. Creating a Directory Website with Beaver Builder
  8. Creating a Directory Website with the Neve theme and Otter plugin
  9. Creating a Directory Website with the OllieWP Theme
  10. Creating a Directory Website with the Generatepress Theme
  11. Building a Directory Website with Divi
  12. Create a Directory Website with the OceanWP Theme
  13. Create a Directory Website with the Kadence theme
  14. Create a Directory Website with the Astra Theme and Spectra Plugin
  15. How to Create a Directory Website with Elementor

We’ll have more tutorials coming soon.

On top of the pre-built designs, though, you’ll want to personalize the look and feel of your site. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a unique color scheme that reflects your city or brand and target audience.
  • Customize your logo using colors and images that are relevant to your niche and target audience.
  • Use high-quality images that are unique to your brand and niche.
  • Customize your fonts for a consistent and professional look.
  • Add personal touches, like a unique welcome message or personal story, to create a sense of connection with your audience.
  • Use widgets and plugins to add custom features like social media feeds or contact forms.

Lastly, GeoDirectory comes with some game-changing add-ons that help you (literally) make the most out of your directory websites. You can take a look at all of them here

We’ll go through some of the must-haves here:

  • Location manager: This is your best friend for when you want to scale and go global. It allows you to set up different locations for your directory and manage them individually.
  • Advanced search: You want to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for in your directory. The advanced search add-on makes it easy for users to filter their searches by different criteria (that you can set).
  • Pricing manager: We think it’s safe to say you were planning on taking a bit of profit from all the listings in your directory. The pricing manager add-on will allow you to sell premium listings, and help you keep track of payments and subscriptions. So you can set up pricing models that work for you. For example, you can pair this with the Claim Listings add-on to create a payment gateway for when businesses want to claim and customize their own listing.
  • Multi-ratings and reviews: What good is your directory if people don’t know which businesses to trust? The Multi-ratings and Reviews add-on will help you build credibility by allowing users to leave reviews for your listed businesses. You can choose the icon and set different rating categories.

Step 4: Gather and organize your data

Now it’s time to populate your directory with listings. This is one of the most time-consuming steps in creating a directory website, but it will pay off immensely in the end!

You can start by adding dummy data, which is useful for testing different features, and customizations, and seeing how GeoDirectory manages different content types.

Or if you have a database of your own, you can use the CSV import tool to easily add listings and categorize them in bulk.

Follow this guide on how to import/export data.

Once all the data is in, you can start organizing it. This will make it easier for users to search through your directory and find what they need.

You can set up categories, tags, and sub-categories to make it easier for people to find what they need.

Remember, you can also set filters to narrow down the search results further, so users don’t have to sift through a long list of listings.

Step 5: Optimize for SEO

SEO is a long-term game, and it’s essential that you start building your SEO foundation right away.   We’ll get into short-term marketing strategies for your directory business in the following section.

To optimize your business listings for SEO, follow these actionable tips:

A. Keyword research and targeting

  • Brainstorm words and phrases that potential customers might use to search for your business or related services
  • Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find relevant and high-search volume keywords
  • Include your target keywords in your business listing’s titles, descriptions, and other relevant fields
  • Create high-quality SEO content based on low to medium-competition keywords

B. Optimizing meta tags and content

  • Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions with accurate, concise information and your target keywords
  • Include your target keywords and relevant information about your business in your business listing’s content

C. Building backlinks

  • Reach out to other businesses or websites in your industry and ask them to link to your directory business listings
  • Create valuable content, such as blog posts or infographics, that other websites may want to link to
  • Ensure that backlinks come from reputable and credible websites in your industry

The great thing about GeoDirectory is that it’s optimized for SEO out of the box. This sets up your directory for success and makes it easier to optimize your content for SEO.

Pro tip: Many successful online directories opt to hire an SEO agency that does this all for them, as it can be time-consuming and require specialized knowledge that you can’t afford to get wrong.

Check out this Guide for more detailed information on how to do SEO for an Online Directory website.

Step 6: Promote your directory website

You now have a directory website set up and ready to go, but no one will know about it unless you put in the work to promote it. Here are some effective ways to do this:

Social media marketing

  • Choose the right social media platforms for your directory. Consider where your target audience spends their time online and focus on those platforms. For example, if you’re targeting local businesses, LinkedIn might be a good option, while a directory for foodies might do well on Instagram.
  • Create a social media content calendar and post regularly. Share updates about your directory, highlight featured businesses or events and offer tips or insights related to your niche.
  • Engage with your followers by responding to comments and messages promptly. Show your audience that you’re listening and value their input.
  • Use social media advertising to target specific audiences and increase visibility. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn offer robust targeting options that allow you to reach your ideal audience.
  • Consider partnering with influencers or other businesses in your industry for cross-promotion. By collaborating with others in your niche, you can increase your reach and credibility within the community.

Email marketing

Email marketing can be a powerful tool for promoting your business directory website and keeping your subscribers engaged. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your email marketing efforts:

  • Collect email addresses from your customers and potential customers: Use sign-up forms on your website and social media channels to gather email addresses from people who are interested in your directory. This is best done when you throw a compelling offer in there in exchange for their email address.
  • Use email marketing software (like MailChimp) to send regular newsletters, promotions, and updates: This will allow you to automate your email marketing and save time while staying in touch with your subscribers. 
    • Send emails announcing new businesses that have been added to your directory. 
    • Highlight a different business each month to attract more attention to the businesses in your directory. 
    • Keep your subscribers informed about the latest news and trends in your industry. 
    • Let your subscribers know about upcoming events in their area that are relevant to your niche.
  • Personalize your emails with the recipient’s name and other relevant information
  • Your subject lines should be catchy and attention-grabbing, while your calls to action should be clear and compelling to increase open and click-through rates

Networking and partnerships

Networking and partnerships can help you build relationships with other businesses and attract new customers to your directory website. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your networking and partnership efforts:

  • Attend local business events and networking opportunities: This will allow you to meet other business owners in your area and build relationships that can lead to partnerships and collaborations.
  • Host events or webinars to attract potential customers and showcase your expertise: This will help you establish yourself as an authority in your niche and build trust with your audience.
  • Offer referral programs or discounts to incentivize customers to refer new business to you: This can help you attract new customers and build loyalty among your existing customer base.

Step 7: Monitor and improve


You’ve launched your business directory website, but your work doesn’t stop there.

To ensure your website is successful, you need to continually monitor and improve it.

Here are some tips for analyzing website performance, gathering customer feedback, and making updates and improvements:

Analyzing website performance

Use tools like Google Analytics to track website traffic and user behavior.

This can help you identify areas of your website that are performing well and areas that need improvement.

Some metrics to look out for include bounce rate, time on site, and page views.

GeoDirectory also has a Google Analytics add-on that lets you add GA tracking to your site and share basic stats on the details page for users.

Gathering customer feedback

Ask your customers for feedback on your website and directory.

You can do this through surveys, online reviews, or social media.

This feedback can help you identify areas of your website that need improvement and provide ideas for new features or services.

Making updates and improvements

Based on the insights you gather from analyzing website performance and gathering customer feedback, make updates and improvements to your website.

This could include updating website content, improving website navigation, or adding new features to enhance user experience.

Continuously monitoring and improving your website can help you stay ahead of the competition and provide a better user experience for your customers.

Remember, a successful business directory website is never truly finished – it’s an ongoing project that requires constant attention and improvement.

Start a profitable directory business today with GeoDirectory

All in all, building a business directory website can be a rewarding and profitable venture.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a professional and comprehensive directory website that provides value to your customers and generates passive income for you.

Remember to choose a niche, personalize your website, promote your website through various channels, and continually monitor and improve your website.

By doing so, you can create a successful business directory website that stands out from the competition and provides a valuable resource for businesses and consumers alike.

With the right tools, resources, and mindset, you can turn your passion for helping others into a thriving online business.

So why not give it a try?

Who knows, your business directory website could be the next big thing!

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Published by Paolo

Paolo Tajani, co-founder and marketing lead at AyeCode LTD, works alongside his business partner Stiofan to develop key WordPress plugins such as GeoDirectory, UsersWP, and GetPaid. Starting his journey with WordPress in 2008, Paolo joined forces with Stiofan O'Connor in 2011. Together, they have been instrumental in creating and marketing a range of successful themes and plugins, now actively used by over 100,000 websites.